After fighting a legal battle for the last 60 years, finally the third generation of Tarbela Dam affectees got justice as the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered Water & Power Development Authority (WAPDA) to give them alternative land as compensation.
The SC has dismissed the appeal of WAPDA against the claims of the Tarbela Dam affectees. The apex court upheld the decision of the High Court regarding payment of compensation and alternative land to the victims. A three-member bench of the SC headed by Justice Omar Atta Bandial delivered the verdict.
During the hearing Justice Atta remarked that according to the policy, the Tarbela Dam affectees did not receive alternative land and inquired how much land was required by 206 victims. To this WAPDA’s lawyer told the court that 5,000 acres of land is required to be given to the afectees. The apex court remarked that WAPDA should find a way and compensate the victims and also settle the issues with the Bhasha Dam victims. “One lac seven thousand for 12 acres of land is equivalent to non-compensation,” the court maintained.
WAPDA’s lawyer stated that the cases of the Tarbela Dam affectees are being reviewed in the light of the High Court’s decision.
Anjuman Tahaffuz-e-Haqooq-e-Mutasreen Tarbela Dam’s letter to then Chief Justice of Pakistan Haji Haq Nawaz Khan stated that at the time of construction of dam of 60,000 acres of land in Punjab and Sindh were allotted when 30,000 each was announced. It was decided in a meeting which was chaired by former President Field Marshal Ayub Khan in Peshawar that every individual possessing 16 kanals rain dependent or four kanals agricultural land would be entitled to 12.5 acres agricultural land in Punjab or Sindh provinces.
However, later it was decided that Sindh Barrage areas affectees would be allotted the same quantity of land as much of them were affected in barrage areas. WAPDA’s rehabilitation department had demanded one lac acres land from the federal government for the settlement of the affectees. But then provincial government had specified 30,000 acres of land each in Sindh and Punjab. Those who were allotted land in Sindh could not get possession of their lands in Sindh since influential people of the Sindh did not surrender their illegally possessed lands.
At that time 2,400 influential families got 30,000 acres land in their names in Punjab, while 4,000 families were left at the mercy of WAPDA, as authorities continued to remain unmoved despite repeated reminders by the affectees. It was then that the affectees contacted the Peshawar High Court and filed two writ petitions with WP No-107/2004 and 129/2007 seeking justice regarding compensation from WAPDA.
The court concerned decided in 2010 directed the WAPDA authorities to allot the land to affectees as per the rules laid out. However, WAPDA officials, in 2012, filed an appeal with the SC against the decision of Peshawar High Court and delayed the rehabilitation of dam affectees.
The Secretary for Water and Power once appeared before the apex court and confessed that affectees of Tarbela were entitled to land compensation and they would be given relief.
On June 4, 2003 then SC Judges Justice Javed Iqbal and Justice Karamat Nazir Bhindari in the writ petition of Chan Peer, an affectee of Tarbela Dam, directed the WAPDA authorities to compensate the affectees within 60-days. The court further warned the WAPDA officials to be ready to go jail in case they failed to comply with court orders. “We are surprised at how the bureaucrats sleep soundly at night after depriving the bonafide people from their rights,” the court remarked.
In the 2003 the World Bank imposed a condition of to complete compensation due to the Tarbela affectees if further aid was to be received for the Ghazi Barotha Dam.
The some local influential people in the the area, with connivance of WAPDA officials, approached the affectees that WAPDA and told them that a compensation of Rs 0.1 million was the maximum amount that could be provided against per 12.5 acres land. The affectees, who were disappointed for the last more than 40 years, resolved to accept this thinking that something is better than nothing. However, the court rejected this amount as compensation during the hearing.
Now the apex court again has ordered WAPDA to find a way to compensate Tarbela Dam affectees.
About 82,000 acres of land was acquired for the construction of Tarbela Dam. The dam submerged 135 villages, which resulted in displacement of a population of about 96,000 people. Under the Land Acquisition Act of 1984 for the build-up property a cash compensation of Rs 469.65 million was paid to affectees. In the absence of a national policy, the resettlement concerns of the people displaced by the Tarbela Dam were addressed on an ad hoc basis.
The Tarbela Dam was constructed as part of the Indus Basin Project after signing of the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 between India and Pakistan to compensate for the loss of water supplies of the Eastern rivers (Ravi, Sutlej and Beas) that were designated for exclusive use by India per terms of the treaty.